Hands on review of the Zenith Defy El Primero 21 Patrick Mouratoglou Ultimate Tennis Showdown
It is interesting to note that at Zenith, it is one of the most technical watches in the collection that spearheads the brand's "lifestyle" approach. The Defy El Primero 21, whose chronograph function is distinguished by its ability to display 100ths of a second, is being used more and more frequently in the context of collaborations that allow different styles and universes to be explored. I'm thinking, for example, of the Carl Cox version or the Land Rover model. The latest collaboration to date is the one established with Patrick Mouratoglou who has become friend of the brand a few months ago. The Defy El Primero 21 Ultimate Tennis Showdown, which will be available during the month of November, gives concrete expression to this commitment.
Patrick Mouratoglou is one of the best known figures in the world of tennis. He is the famous coach of Serena Williams, he also supports other players, both confirmed and aspiring. But Patrick Mouratoglou is much more than that. He is also a shrewd businessman who has developed a renowned academy, the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy, now installed in a complex at Sophia Antipolis in the South of France. This complex includes a hotel, a spa, seminar rooms, a restaurant... and of course a resort with 34 courts, a fitness centre, a campus and a sports medicine centre.
Patrick Mouratoglou has also been in the news in recent months for another reason. Following the end of the official tennis season for health reasons, he took advantage of the situation to set up a parallel event to meet two challenges:
- to keep the players busy by organising games broadcast via different channels
- to reflect on the evolution of sport by adapting the rules to make games more dynamic and more attractive. This reflection is not insignificant. It is a question of thinking about the future of tennis, how to make it more attractive in the eyes of the new generations and how to make it better adapted to television formats.
The first games of the Ultimate Tennis Showdown took place in June when sanitary conditions allowed it. I then discovered the particular format of these games, which leave little room for time-outs: 15 seconds to serve, a 10-minute quarter system, a countdown at the last minute... in short, everything seemed to be calibrated like a basketball match. But above all, the players could express themselves, react without fear of taking a warning and then a penalty point. At the same time, the coach became an important player in the game because he had the ability to exchange quickly with his player by pressing a buzzer. The result was therefore confusing for those used to the ATP format but undoubtedly the formula worked well in this particular context and made it possible to offer tennis matches to fans who had been deprived of their favourite sport for several months. One thing is certain: tennis will have to think about this in the future. The world is changing, and very quickly. Will television viewers in the future still be so inclined to follow games that can last for hours without knowing in advance how long the match will last? Of course this is part of the essence of the sport, but the fact that tie-break in the 5th set has been introduced in most Grand Slam tournaments shows this need to control time.
"Little details make big differences": this is true in tennis, it is also true in watchmaking:
Time, let's talk about it, because the collaboration between Patrick Mouratoglou and Zenith logically led to a watch. Unsurprisingly, it is the Defy El Primero 21 that serves as the basis for this achievement. The choice is judicious, especially in the context of the Ultimate Tennis Showdown.
I would remind you that the Defy El Primero 21 is a watch characterised by the complex construction of its El Primero 9004 movement with two balances and springs. The power-reserve display at the top of the dial only concerns the chronograph function. Simply turn the crown to wind up the specific chronograph mechanism. Once the chronograph has been started, the balance (coupled with a very small balance-spring) oscillates at 50 hz, enabling the time measured to be displayed to 100ths of a second. These 100ths of a second are displayed thanks to the central second hand which makes one revolution of the dial in one second. The visual effect is really breathtaking, one is almost afraid that the hand might get loose because of the speed.
But there is no risk: the technology is mastered and is based on a reliable basic movement. The chronograph seconds are indicated by the counter at 6 o'clock, while the minute counter is at 3 o'clock. The permanent second hand is at 9 o'clock.
The basic calibre El Primero, operates at a frequency of 5hz for a power reserve of around 50 hours. Its winding efficiency is excellent... and crucial because the winding mass winds the specific mechanism of the time display and not that of the chronograph.
The Zenith Dey El Primero 21 Patrick Mouratoglou therefore follows the same architecture and features an open dial, as is often the case with this watch. However, and this is a trend (already seen with the Ultraviolet version) that I appreciate for this model, the counters are solid which improves readability.
The case and bezel are made of light carbon. Their appearance is very contemporary and consistent with the world of tennis. The colour codes are those of the Ultimate Tennis Showdown and the touches of blue, white and yellow (to recall the little tennis ball) blend well without swearing. The counter at 6 o'clock features the very discreet Mouratoglou Academy logo.
What is less discreet, however, are the inscriptions around the base of the bezel: Patrick Mouratoglou's motto, "little details make big differences" is thus repeated several times and decorates the watch. Let's be clear: this aesthetic approach is divisive. Either one considers that it gives character to the watch, or one finds this decoration totally superfluous. Personally, I would have done without it, as the watch would have been a success without it. Afterwards, I understand Zenith's decision: it is better to go to the end of the concept and give as much character as possible to this watch which seals the commitment with Patrick Mouratoglou. It is after all published in a limited series of 50 pieces and more consensual models are available in the catalogue.
The El Primero 9004 movement is as usual visible through the see-through caseback. Its blue winding mass corresponds well to the atmosphere of the dial. The presentation of the movement is contemporary and neat. The finishes are correct without being spectacular. It is the movement's own construction that makes it attractive. It is very pleasant to look at even if I find that the winding weight is a little too imposing and hides too many details for my taste.
I really liked the technical material strap with a rubber lining. I liked its texture and comfort. It also holds the watch firmly on the wrist which is positive considering the size of the case. Even more than its diameter (44mm), it is its overall volume that gives this feeling of size. The Defy El Primero 21 is a watch that feels big on the wrist and this is a parameter to take into account. However, it remains very comfortable to wear thanks to its lightness and the efficiency of the folding clasp.
A watch with character, the Defy El Primero Patrick Mouratoglou is a true reflection of the famous tennis coach. Zenith takes advantage of the technical performance of the El Primero 9004 movement to offer a more dynamic and contemporary approach to classic chronographs. A little bit like the Ultimate Tennis Showdown wants to be in relation to the traditional ATP circuit: it does not compete but implements new ideas that could be useful in the future.
The Zenith Defy El Primero Patrick Mouratoglou will be available from November in a limited edition of 50 pieces. Each client will be able to spend a night at the Mouratoglou Academy and benefit from individual training with the coach. Few watches can offer the prospect of improving your forehand!
+ the performance of the El Primero 9004 calibre
+ the comfort on the wrist
+ the solid subdials
+ the very appealing strap
- the inscriptions around the base of the bezel are not everyone's taste
- the case is bulky